• Cucumber Pirogue
• Spicy Potato Soup
• Fruit Salad with Yogurt Cheese Dressing
• Sautéed Eggplant and Bell Pepper Curry
• Spinach with Homemade Cheese (Saag Paneer)
• Mixed Vegetable Korma (Navarathna Korma)
•Rice Pilaf with Cashews, Black Pepper, and Coconut
• Vegetable Biryani
• Basic Toovar Dal
• Spicy Black-eyed Pea Curry
• Chapatis (Whole Wheat Flat Breads)
• Parathas (Whole Wheat Flaky Griddle Breads)
• Aloo Parathas (Potato-stuffed Breads)
• Masala Dosa
• Rava Idli
• Minty Yogurt Drink
• Sweet Vermicelli Pudding
• Almond Milk Fudge
“Vasantha Prasad’s book is a must-read for anyone who loves healthy Indian vegetarian fare. Her recipes are wonderful and use all five of the senses!”—Nina Griscom, co-host of Dining Around (TV Food Network)
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
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About the Author
Growing up in a country renowned for its exotic spices and wide variety of vegetables,
not to mention age-old family culinary secrets, she learned to prepare healthful and tasty vegetarian delights.
She came to the United States in 1972 and now lives in Mamaroneck, New York, with her family.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Read an Excerpt
THE STAPLES OF AN INDIAN KITCHEN
SPICES AND SEASONINGS
YOGURT, GHEE, CHEESES, AND MILK SAUCE
THE STAPLES OF AN INDIAN KITCHEN
SPICES AND SEASONINGS
ASAFETIDA • (Heeng)
Asafetida is a brown resin obtained from the roots of a certain Indian plant. It is available either in lump form (its purest state) or powdered, which is more convenient to use. Asafetida releases its characteristic smell only when powdered.
Asafetida’s distinctive, pungent flavor and aroma is used to season dal or lentil dishes, chutneys, and so on. It has strong digestive properties and is used to counteract flatulence.
Asafetida is prepared by adding only ⅛ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon hot vegetable oil. Heat until it releases its strong odor, usually after only a few seconds.
BAY LEAF • (Tej Patta)
There are two kinds of bay leaves. The Indian bay leaf comes from the cassia tree and has a sweet taste with a spicy aroma. It is mainly used in the preparation of meat dishes. The other variety comes from the bay tree, native to China and southeast Asia, and has a bitter taste with a lemony aroma. Use the latter variety in smaller quantities.
CARDAMOM • (Elaichi)
The fruit of the cardamom plant, the cardamom pod, comes in two colors: green and black. The black cardamom is available in Indian and specialty stores. It is sold only in the whole form, although it is used either whole or powdered to prepare garam masala, relishes, and rice pilafs. Black cardamom has a nuttier flavor than green cardamom, which can be substituted if the black is unavailable.
Green cardamom has a pale green skin and a sweet taste and is available either whole or powdered. It is mainly used in flavoring puddings, sweets, and many classic vegetarian dishes.
Cardamoms can be added along with other spices in preparing tea and are also chewed after dinner as breath fresheners.
CAROM • (Ajwain)
Carom is the seed of the thymol plant, which grows in southern India. The seeds look very much like celery seeds but have a sharp taste and smell like thyme. Carom is used in the preparation of pickles as well as for seasoning many vegetarian dishes.
CILANTRO • (Hara Dhania)
Fresh cilantro leaves, sometimes called fresh coriander, come from the same plant (Coriandrum sativum) as coriander seeds. Latino markets and mainstream groceries refer to this plant as “cilantro”; Asian markets will call it “Chinese parsley.” Cilantro resembles Italian flat-leaf parsley, although the cilantro leaves are lighter green, thinner, and more fragrant than parsley. Fresh cilantro should be cleaned and stored like fresh parsley.
CINNAMON • (Dalchini)
Cinnamon comes in two varieties. Indian cinnamon is the bark of the cassia tree. The bark is peeled in long strips, called cinnamon sticks. This has a reddish brown color with a sweet, delicate taste and strong aroma. The other cinnamon is the bark of the cinnamon tree. The bark is slender and smooth and has a milder aroma than the Indian variety. They can be used interchangeably.
CLOVE • (Lavang)
Cloves are the dried flower buds of the clove tree. They are dark brown with a sharp taste and available either whole or powdered.
CORIANDER SEED • (Dhania)
Coriander seed is the ripe fruit of the coriander plant. It is round and light brown in color and has a strong, nutty aroma. It is available in three forms: whole, powdered, or ground. It is used to thicken sauces and to season sautéed vegetable dishes. Ground coriander is available in Indian stores and other specialty markets.
CUMIN • (Jeera)
Cumin is the dried ripe fruit of the cumin plant. It comes in two varieties, white and black. In India, it is one of the most widely used spices, whole or powdered. White cumin, commonly referred to as cumin, is actually yellowish brown in color. It resembles the caraway seed in shape, but it is larger in size. Black cumin (known as royal cumin, or shahi jeera) is sweeter than white cumin. This also resembles the caraway seed but is smaller. White cumin is available whole or powdered; black cumin is only available whole.
CURRY LEAVES • (Curry Patta or Meethe Neam ke Patte)
Curry leaves are shiny, thin, and dark green in color; they are used in dal.
FENNEL SEED • (Saunf)
Fennel seed, from the fennel plant, has a sweet licorice or anise taste. It is used whole or powdered. The thinner seed, known as lakhnawi saunf, is served as an after-dinner mint.
FENUGREEK • (Methi)
Fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenumgraecum) is a small legume with a bitter taste. It is used both whole and powdered, and is usually dry-roasted to enhance its flavor. Fresh fenugreek leaves are slightly bitter and are used to prepare dal stews. Dried leaves are used as herbs.
Fresh ginger is the underground root of the ginger plant (Aingiber offinale) grown in Asia. Fresh ginger is used shredded, minced, or pureed. It stays fresh for many days in the refrigerator.
Ginger is also available in a powdered form and is used in sweet pickles and relishes.
MANGO POWDER • (Amchoor)
A tan-colored powder made from peeled, unripe, tart, sun-dried mangoes. It has a pungent aroma and a sour taste and is used instead of lime juice or tamarind. It is available in Indian grocery stores.
MUSTARD • (Rai)
The seed from the mustard plant, Brassica juncea, is tiny, round, and brownish-black or purplish-black. Black mustard seeds, ground or cooked, impart a spicy flavor. It can be used, whole or powdered, to prepare pickles as well as other vegetable dishes.
NUTMEG • (Jaiphul)
Nutmeg is the dark brown nut enclosed within the mace membrane. The shell is dried, then grated into a powder. Nutmeg is available either whole or powdered. Its sweet taste and mild fragrance is used in the preparation of relishes and garam masala.
PAPRIKA• (Deghi Mirch)
The chili pod of the plant capsicum is sun-dried and ground to produce mild red chili powder, similar to Hungarian paprika. It turns food a brilliant red.
POMEGRANATE • (Anardana)
These plump seeds are enclosed in the honeycombed membrane of the deep red fruit. The seeds can be eaten raw, or dried and used as a spice. Dried, powdered pomegranate is used in Indian cooking.
POPPY SEED, WHITE • (Khas-Khas)
The white seeds from the poppy plant are available whole, and when raw their taste is very mild; when roasted, the seeds are ground with other spices to season primarily vegetable dishes.
RED PEPPER • (Lal Mirch)
Red pepper, the ripe, sun-dried chili pod of the capsicum plant, is available whole, as a pod, or in flakes. The spicy red pepper is an essential ingredient in Indian cooking.
SAFFRON • (Kesar)
Saffron is the dried stigma of the flower of the saffron plant (Crocus sativus). It is one of the most expensive spices in the world and is available either in reddish-brown threads or powdered. It imparts a beautiful orange-yellow color to a dish. Because of its strong flavor, it should be used sparingly. Saffron is used in puddings, sweets, and pilafs.
TAMARIND • (Imli)
Tamarind is the pulpy pod of the tropical plant Tamarindus indica, grown in India. It is brownish-black in color and tastes tart. The ripe tamarind pods are peeled and pitted, and the pulp compressed into small cakes. Tamarind is widely used in southern India to prepare lentils, chutneys, and vegetable dishes. It is also available in the form of paste at Asian grocery stores (tamarind paste).
TURMERIC • (Haldi)
Turmeric is the root of the tropical plant Curcuma longa. The roots are cleaned, boiled, dried, and pulverized into an aromatic yellow powder. It is mainly used in dals and vegetable dishes to impart a characteristic yellow color.
YOGURT, GHEE, CHEESES, AND MILK SAUCE
Yogurt is used in Indian cooking to prepare cold drinks (lassi), dressing for salads (raita), relishes, sauces, and soups.
While yogurt is readily available in supermarkets, homemade yogurt is definitely tastier, fresher, and more economical than commercial brands. There are yogurt makers available for home use, but to make yogurt you really don’t need one. Any bowl—glass, china, Pyrex, stainless steel—with a lid can be used. Yogurt sets best when the temperature of the milk is around 105 degrees; at this temperature the yogurt culture is added. Place the bowl of milk in a gas oven with the pilot light on, or on a low-set heating pad, or near a radiator—as long as the temperature of 75–80 degrees is maintained; too cold, the yogurt will not set, too hot, the yogurt will turn sour.
1 quart (4 cups) milk (whole, 2%, 1%, or skim, according to your preference)
2 Tbsp. plain yogurt
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Once the milk begins to rise in the pan, turn off the heat and let it cool to 105 degrees. Pour the milk in a bowl. Add the yogurt, cover, and leave in a warm place where the temperature is maintained around 75–80 degrees. Leave it to set undisturbed for about 7 or 8 hours. Homemade yogurt will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Yogurt cheese tastes better and has fewer calories than commercial cream cheese. It is very easy to make. Whole milk yogurt makes a creamier cheese, but it can be made with low-fat and nonfat yogurt as well. This soft cheese is excellent for dips, salads, and spreads.
MAKES 1 CUP
2 cups (16 oz.) plain yogurt
Line a strainer with either a double layer of cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter. Set the strainer in a bowl deep enough for the yogurt to drip into. Put the yogurt in the strainer and let it drain into the bowl overnight in the refrigerator. Spoon the cheese from the filter or cheesecloth into a container. You can either refrigerate it, covered, as is or season the cheese to taste with salt, white pepper, herbs, or chopped scallions or cilantro, then cover and refrigerate.